For many people the British Museum is the mothership and apparently for Rodin too. He never actually went to Greece, instead viewing the purloined marbles in the comfort of Bloomsbury. He referred to the museum as the temple. Fitting then that should put on an exhibition of his work.
The theme is Rodin and the Greek works that inspired, and you have them displayed side by side . The whole thing is exhibited and an elegant black and white decorated room lit by a large window at one end. It is nice to have some natural light in an exhibition for a change.
Like so (above). I often find sculpture cold and difficult to engage with. A number of Rodin's escape this by nice feathery effect. There are a number of pieces that are in bronze like the walker (above right) which is easier to emotionally respond to. The ancient Greek sculpture, cracked, weathered and with pieces missing and often with these deep folds carved into them allow for a similar response. I find myself drawn to these more as I wandered round.
There are two version of the thinker. The clean white marble white marble one (top of the blog, right) and the orange marble one (above). I really like the orangey one. It is massive, large and looming. It brings to mind a Gaulish chieftain from Asterix and Obelix. All muscularity. I really like it.
My favourite things in the show, which I suppose I could have seen at any time were the Parthenon friezes (above). I like the movement and the overlapping characters.
Of all the friezes my favourite is Lapith fighting the centaur (above). I like the frozen moment of combat and the furious almost serpent like hair of the centaur.
Speaking of terriying things I also found strangely appealing the twisted baby head (above , the figure on the left) with the blank staring eyes looking up towards the ceiling and the way it is twisted off the torso. It pairs very well with the Rodin next to it, although that one is a bit little lord fauntelroy for my tastes.
Of course you cannot do a Rodin show without the Burghers of Callais. This strange wasted group, in there ripped and sodden rags, oscillating around in a mournful circle. Like all good sculpture it rewards you when you circle round it. Each angle presents a different relationship and shows you something new. It's a powerful piece of work and the darkness of the bronze adds something. It would not have worked in marble.
Interestingly there are some other bronze sculptures, preparatory works for the final piece. The one above I found the most evocative. If you look you can see him in the final work, but this stripped version is even more cadaverous than the final one. I heard a passing stranger saying it was modeled on Rodin's son. If true, he had good veiny legs.
Tastefully set out at various points are vitrines (posh word for display cases) of Rodin's sketch and note books. Chalk, ink and charcoal drawings of various statuary or ideas for sculptures. Always interesting to see the generation of ideas.
Of the work proper apart from the bronzes I liked this smaller piece of a woman's head, emerging from a roughly chiselled block (above). It makes for a nice contrast between that and the smoothness of her face.
In a similar vein I was drawn to Sister of Icarus (above, left figure), again you have the smooth figure this time diving into a roughly hewn sea (presumably). It makes a good contrast to the dark marble torso figure next to it.
I spent quite some time in this show, looking at things and sketching some of the figures. The curators have obviously had an eye for the vista as well (below for example). The figures are arranged in rows and segments so if you look back across the rows there is a often a harmony in the themes. And on that unnecessarily pretentious sentence I shall end this post.
William John Mackenzie
I am an artist with a specialism in landscapes and still life. My contact details are here.